This Day In Histroy: The USS Cole Is Attacked By Suspected Al Qaeda Terrorists (2000)

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On this date in 2000 terrorists launched a daring attack on the USS Cole. The ship, a destroyer, was one of the most highly advanced in the US navy. The ship was part of an operation that was enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It had sailed to Aden in Yemen in order to refuel before it joined the operation in the Persian Gulf. The ships was scheduled to stay in the port of Aden for four hours. The US Navy were on high alert because they knew that Yemen was a lawless country that had many Islamic fundamentalists.

At about noon local time a motorized rubber dinghy approached the ship. The crew of the ship saw the dinghy approach and were concerned. They did not realize that the dinghy was part of a suicide mission. The dinghy had two suicide bombers who were steering towards the USS Cole. When they were a short distance from the Cole, two of the terrorists stood up and they detonated a cache of explosives on the craft. The dinghy exploded.  Although the dinghy was not quite level with the ship such was the power of the explosives that it blew a  forty feet by forty feet  hole on the side of the USS Cole. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded 40 more. The world was shocked by the attack and it was the first terrorist attack on a naval ship in American military history.

INTEL-COGNITIVE-Cole
The hole caused by the explosion on the USS Cole

Immediately, the CIA and the FBI were authorized to investigate the incident.  Suspicion fell on the Al Qaeda organisation that was based in Afghanistan and that was led by the Saudi national Osama bin Laden. It was widely believed that at the time that members of the Al Qaeda network, had carried out the attack on the USS Cole, that had previously been responsible for the attacks on two East African embassies in 1998, that left hundreds dead.  Al Qaeda was bitterly opposed to American involvement in the Middle East and especially in Saudi Arabia. It was dedicated to the overthrow of all those regimes that were considered pro-American and especially the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy. The Al Qaeda network had members all over the Muslim world and many of its members had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Six men who had been allegedly involved in the US Cole attack were soon arrested in Yemen. However, the FBI had difficulties getting information from the suspects and that they could not establish if it was an Al Qaeda attack. Less than a year later Al Qaeda launched the 9-11 attacks, which killed 3000 people and led to the ‘War on Terror’.

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